“Fountain” is a new video and photography exhibition centered around the theme of ageing. The works are a continuation of an ongoing series featuring Michael Smith’s eponymous performance persona Mike, a hopeful innocent who believes everything and understands very little. In this episode, Mike is preoccupied with recapturing his youth, as indicated by documentation of a recent journey to Fountain of Youth State Park in St. Augustine, Florida. Chronicled in a series of photographs, Mike’s visit to this Florida tourist trap indicates that it was designed to both inform and misinform visitors. These photographs are exhibited together with a double projection of a video of Mike on another search, one he need not travel far for, as he searches through his pockets for his glasses, keys and cell phone. The absent-minded behavior documented in the videos and juxtaposed with his Florida vacation photographs indicates that it is possible that Mike may forget what he is in search of, as he embarks on a quest for the ever-elusive elixir of life.
Since 1979, the majority of Smith’s work has centered on his extraordinarily prescient and sympathetic character, the naïve and somewhat inept Everyman, Mike, who is the focus of this exhibition. Smith’s other recurring performance persona is Baby Ikki, whose bizarre and precipitous infancy is marked by conspicuous facial hair, oversized diapers, and undersized sunglasses. To elaborate these performances, which were created both for the stage and for video, Smith has generated a huge corpus of work, collaborating with a wide range of artists in many media. In addition to the time-based works, he and his collaborators have broken new ground in immersive installation art, and, working solo, he has produced several artist books and an impressive corpus of drawings and sketches that detail the creative process, most recently Baby Ikki at The Museum, published in conjunction with the Whitney Museum.
Smith has collaborated with numerous artists including Joshua White, Mike Kelley, William Wegman, Seth Price and Mayo Thompson. In 2011/2012 the UK premiere of A Voyage of Growth and Discovery, his major collaboration with Kelley, was shown at The BALTIC in Newcastle. Smith was included in The Whitney Biennial in 2008 and his retrospective, Mike’s World:Michael Smith & Joshua White (and other collaborators) was also on view at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia that year. He has been the recipient of a number of prestigious awards most recently the ‘Alpert Award in the Arts’ (2012). Smith lives and works in Brooklyn and Austin, Texas.
Michael Smith (born in Chicago in 1951) has performed and exhibited extensively since the late 1970s, including at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The New Museum, Leo Castelli Gallery, Sculpture Center, MOMA P.S.1, Palais de Tokyo, Miami Art Museum, White Columns, The Walker Art Center, Pompidou Centre and The Blanton Museum of Art.